Huang, C. & Tagare, H. Robust W-Estimators for Cryo-EM Class Means. IEEE Trans Image Process, 2015, 25, 893-906
A critical step in cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM) image analysis is to calculate the average of all images aligned to a projection direction. This average, called the "class mean", improves the signal-to-noise ratio in single particle reconstruction (SPR). The averaging step is often compromised because of outlier images of ice, contaminants, and particle fragments. Outlier detection and rejection in the majority of current cryo-EM methods is done using cross-correlation with a manually determined threshold. Empirical assessment shows that the performance of these methods is very sensitive to the threshold. This paper proposes an alternative: a "w-estimator" of the average image, which is robust to outliers and which does not use a threshold. Various properties of the estimator, such as consistency and influence function are investigated. An extension of the estimator to images with different contrast transfer functions (CTFs) is also provided. Experiments with simulated and real cryo-EM images show that the proposed estimator performs quite well in the presence of outliers.